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Langland’s Early Modern Identities by Sarah A. Kelen (auth.)

By Sarah A. Kelen (auth.)

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In Langland’s case, that takes the form of Bale and Crowley’s conflations of Langland and Wyclif. Chaucer too was affiliated with the Wycliffite project in sixteenth-century biographies, as I discuss further in chapter 5. Moreover, in sixteenth-century biographies, Chaucer, unlike Langland, was identified particularly with the court, especially with John of Gaunt. Although their affiliations diverge, both authors are themselves authorized through the names of others. The author-centered criticism that begins to associate biography with literature did not displace other ways of reading.

123 Bostock understands Langland (correctly, according to the most recent Piers Plowman criticism) as fundamentally orthodox in his views. Although Bostock argues to a conclusion different from Crowley’s, he uses the same strategy of finding theological support for a present position in a poem from the past. However, even if Bostock had publicized his interpretation of Piers Plowman in 1613, it would have been too little too late. Langland had already been cast as a fourteenth-century forerunner of the sixteenth-century Protestantism Bostock himself rejected.

In fact, Crowley does not offer any rationale. His belief that the poem was written in the third quarter of the fourteenth century seems to take implicit justification only from the analogy between Langland and Wyclif. The name of Edward III also seems important to Crowley. If Crowley’s only purpose was to make Langland contemporaneous with Wyclif, he could have done so without reference to the ruler (as, for example, Bale does). Moreover, England had three different monarchs in the fifty-nine year span during which Crowley locates the composition of Piers Plowman: Edward III, Richard II (r.

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